Category Archives: Tennessee

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Overview

During the National Park Service (NPS) centennial in 2016, a new, ambitious park was established linking three far-flung sites in the states of Washington, New Mexico, and Tennessee.  The purpose is to tell the story of the “Manhattan Project,” the military code name during World War II for the secret undertaking to create the world’s first atomic weapon. 

Highlights

Bradbury Science Museum (NM), American Museum of Science and Energy (TN), Hanford Reach National Monument (WA)

Must-Do Activity

In 1942, hundreds of eastern Tennessee families were displaced in order to construct Oak Ridge National Laboratory where experimental nuclear reactors produced plutonium and enriched uranium.  More than 75,000 people hurriedly built and operated this brand new industrial complex, which continues to be used as a Department of Energy research facility to this day.  Due to security and safety concerns, visitors can only enter on a 3-hour bus tour that leaves from the American Museum of Science and Energy.  The tour is well worth your time, as it is currently the only way to see Y-12, X-10, and K-25 and learn more about what those code names really mean.

Best Trail

The Hanford Reach is one of the last free-flowing sections of the Columbia River in eastern Washington and is an important site for salmon spawning.  The area is ecologically pristine, mostly untouched by development since it became the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in 1943.  It is home to the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor that produced the plutonium used by Los Alamos National Laboratories for its scientific breakthroughs in 1945.  Since 2000, Hanford Reach National Monument has been managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and much of the area is off limits.  Other than boating on the river, the best place to get a feel for the area is to walk around the Ringold Fish Hatchery.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The free Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico offers tourists a closer look at the original and ongoing research conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratories (LANL), including a scale model of the “Fat Man” plutonium bomb built here in 1945.  Nearby, the Los Alamos Historical Museum is located in a cabin on historic Bathtub Row, so named because when the government took over the Ranch School in 1943 these were the only dwellings equipped with that luxury. 

Peak Season

Open year round, but summer is best at the high elevations of Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mapr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$5 per adult for the American Museum of Science and Energy and a 3-hour tour (11:30-2:30, reservations recommended) of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved except around Hanford Reach National Monument

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed in Santa Fe National Forest surrounding Los Alamos and it is not far to the campground in Bandelier National Monument.

Explore More – What was the job of the “Calutron Girls” in Oak Ridge during World War II?

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Overview

At age 15, Andrew Johnson fled his apprenticeship in Raleigh,North Carolina and eventually started a tailor shop in Greeneville, Tennessee.  In 1829, he began his political career, ultimately serving as a U.S. Representative, Governor of Tennessee, U.S. Senator, Vice President, and President upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.  He was the first President to be impeached after vetoing the Tenure of Office Act (later found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) and was acquitted by the margin of one vote.

Highlights

House tour, tailor shop, museum, film, National Cemetery

Must-Do Activity

Start at the visitor center, which offers a film, a small museum, and the enclosed tailor shop where Andrew Johnson worked before going into politics.  Dress-up clothes are available if you want to take a photo straight out of the mid-1800s (no smiling for authenticity).  There you can also pick up a free timed ticket for the homestead tour and a ticket to vote in Johnson’s impeachment trial. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The small National Cemetery atop a hill in Greeneville, Tennessee contains the graves of Andrew Johnson, his wife, and about 200 soldiers.

Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/anjo/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved with designated parking lots at the visitor center, homestead, and cemetery.

Camping

Cherokee National Forest offers campgrounds southeast of Greeneville.

Explore More – Why did young Andrew Johnson flee North Carolina six years before his apprenticeship contract expired?


WONDON WAS HERE

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

Overview

Crossing the Tennessee – Kentucky border, the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River cuts a 90-mile long gorge that was spared damming in 1974 when 125,000 acres were set aside by the federal government.  The area is renowned for its Class IV rapids and 400 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders.  Seasonally, a concessionaire runs the Big South Fork Scenic Railway from Stearns Depot to the Blue Heron Mining Community, an outdoor museum.

Fork

Highlights

Natural bridges, waterfalls, whitewater, train ride, trails, new film

Must-Do Activity

The film shown in the 6 visitor centers was released in 2016 and provides an excellent overview of the area.  You might want to ask for the subtitles to be turned on so you can understand the regional accents.

Best Trail

We enjoyed our 2-mile hike to Twin Arches (which are actually natural bridges formed by water).  We look forward to returning to this park to explore its other trails and waterways, especially to see Wagon Arch, Yahoo Falls, and Devil’s Jump Rapids.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Of the two Twin Arches, North Arch (93-foot span) is easier to photograph than South Arch (135-foot span) because there are fewer trees in the way.

IMGP0239

Peak Season

Summer, though the Spring Planting Festival (April) and “Haunting in the Hills” Storytelling Festival (September) offer many free activities.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/biso/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None, except to ride the concessionaire-operated Big South Fork Scenic Railway.

Road Conditions

The dirt roads we drove (Divide Road and Twin Arches Road) were passable for any vehicle.

Camping

There are many options, from full service Bandy Creek Campground in Scott State Forest to dispersed backpack camping along the trails.

IMGP0200

Tiff on the way to Twin Arch

Scott on the "trail" to Twin Arch

Scott exploring a slot
Exploring a slot in the sandstone behind North Arch of the Twin Arches.

IMGP0226
North Arch spans 93 feet with a 51-foot clearance, making me look small underneath it.

Explore More – How deep is the gorge cut by the Big South Fork River?

1WonsTiny2

 

WONDON WAS HERE